Thursday, September 1, 2011

Canyonlands, Utah

Oh my...holy...freakin' sandstone mesas, buttes, and canyons!  Utah has proven to be far more breath-taking than I ever could have imagined. I knew this state was known for its alien-like sandstone formations and deep canyons, but never would I have expected the stratified rock of every earthly color possible.

My father and I visited Canyonlands National Park and though we'd only planned on one day here, spent three days instead. We hiked many short trails the first few days, seeing the ancient granaries still in pristine condition from the native peoples- we happened to be here in the midst of a soaking rainstorm and we literally had to cling to the side of the slickrock butte while scaling down its smooth side, as well as wide overlooks of the canyons and surrounding White Rim below- this is formed by salt deposits. However, the trail that took the cake was the Murphy Loop Trail. Here we descended 1400ft into the canyon, reaching its very bottom, walking a wash. The steps were steep and guided us in short switchbacks up and down the canyon's side and the wide open sky baked us in the hot desert sun. It was like being inside a giant blue sky, red sandstone oven, and it was beautiful.

We also took a dusk-time visit to Horseshoe Canyon, 30m down a dirt road into the middle of nowhere, driving by nothing but mesa, sagebrush and cactus, and having to stop for the periodic cow or horse crossing- these guys were completely free-roaming, not a ranch in sight for miles. Here we camped the night in the parking lot and descended into the canyon the next morning to see the petroglyphs left by ancient peoples believed to have lived in 1000 - 2000BC.

The soil here is crushed red sandstone, some of it bleached white by sun and time, however it supports a hardy collection of desert-loving plants, such as Prickly Pear clustered together in tight communities, various fragrant Artemisia (Sage), cottony members of the Goosefoot family, Juniper trees, and Pinyon Pine.

Cottony Goosefoot

Prickly Pear

 Unfortunately I will have to keep this post short, as we are quickly continuing on our way. We spent the night here in Ely, Nevada, at the Historic Nevada Hotel and Casino. The hotel was lovely, full of old trinkets and antique furniture, however the downstairs and outside of the building was a circus of flashing lights, dings, and whistles- though we did enjoy complimentary margaritas here! We are now going to drive the "loneliest road in the US" through Nevada and into California where we'll explore King's Canyon and hug the giant Sequioas.

Oh...and one more thing...I just must brag about summitting my very first 14,000ft mountain, while in Colorado, Mt.Gray, which my father and I named Mt.Francis in honor of a sweet elderly kitty that passed at home while we've been away.

1 comment:

  1. GORGEOUS! I loved, loved, loved Canyonlands. We camped on BLM land right outside the park. I'd love to go back.